Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2022 Week 06 Hansard (Tuesday, 7 June 2022) . . Page.. 1768 ..
Motion (by Mr Gentleman) proposed:
That the Assembly do now adjourn.
MRS KIKKERT (Ginninderra) (4.53): I rise today to speak of a very serious topic that is plaguing our community—in our homes, in our work and also in our schools. We have raised the alarm bells and have tried to deal with emotional and verbal abuse in our homes and in our workplace. Many people are beginning to recognise this abuse and call it out. However, this emotional and verbal abuse is happening in our schools, to our students, yet we do not talk much about it. I am here to call it out. As shadow minister for youth and families, it is my duty to do so.
A constituent has emailed me with his concern about a schoolteacher allegedly committing emotional and verbal abuse on a student. Let me remind everyone that emotional and verbal abuse includes insults and attempts to scare, isolate and control someone. This constituent went on to say that a teacher had said to a primary school aged student, “Hunt you down.”
Now, imagine if that was said at a workplace. We would classify that as a threat and direct emotional and verbal abuse to an individual, followed by disciplinary action on that individual, depending on whether you have a great boss and an environment that does not tolerate any sort of bullying to anyone. However, when it is said to a primary-aged student, the reaction from the school and the Minister for Education, in almost dismissing the incident and not taking it seriously, is a shame. I have spoken to Minister Yvette Berry about this issue and followed up with her via email last week, yet I have had no response from her. Meanwhile, the situation with her department, in dealing with this, is laughable and an insult to this family, as well as indirectly rubbing salt into the wounded child.
The minister has said before that nobody accepts any kind of violence in our schools. She is also the Minister for the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence, yet her silence on this matter speaks volumes about what she really accepts. This is not just a number, an incident that happened in a school playground or even during a meeting. This is a real student with real heartache. My constituent has expressed that his daughter is afraid of going to school because she does not feel safe around the teacher and she felt devastated at the time of the incident because she felt betrayed and unsafe.
Will the education minister actually provide a safe environment for this constituent’s child? Or maybe the minister has lost control of the education department. The minister thinks she looks strong, but her dealing with schools makes her look weak. Our students—and I mean all students—have every right to feel safe in their school and deserve to attend a school where they are respected, feel supported and feel safe. Even a sincere apology when adults are aware of their wrongdoing goes a long way in building a positive and safe place for our children. Anything less than that is unacceptable, prideful and has no place in our community.